Article ID: CBB725065261

At the Intersection of Medical Geography and Disease Ecology: Mirko Grmek, Jacques May and the Concept of Pathocenosis (2018)


Environmental historians are not sufficiently aware of the extent to which mid twentieth-century thinkers turned to medical geography—originally a nineteenth-century area of study—in order to think through ideas of ecology, environment, and historical reasoning. This article outlines how the French–Croatian Mirko D. Grmek (Krapina, 1924–Paris, 2000), a major thinker of his generation in the history of medicine, used those ideas in his studies of historical epidemiology. During the 1960s, Grmek attempted to provide, in the context of the Annales School’s research program under the leadership of Fernand Braudel, a new theoretical framework for a world history of disease. Its development was inspired by several sources, most notably the French–American Jacques M. May (Paris 1896–Tunisia, 1975), who was then pioneering an opening up of medical geography and movement towards the concept of disease ecology. The cornerstone of Grmek’s “synthetic approach” to the field was the notion of “pathocenosis”. The diverse uses of this notion in the course of time—from his early agenda focused on a longue durée history of diseases in Western Antiquity to his last, relating to the new epidemiological threat of (re)emerging infectious diseases, specifically HIV/aids—enables us firstly, to note how concepts of ecology sat uneasily alongside those of medical geography; secondly, to assess the reach and limits of his theoretical contribution to historical epidemiology; and thirdly, to understand better the uneven fortunes of his concept of pathocenosis at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries.

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Authors & Contributors
Méthot, Pierre-Olivier
Anderson, Warwick H.
Jones, Susan D.
Honigsbaum, Mark
Barrett, Gary W.
Odum, Eugene
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Sciences
Journal of the History of Biology
Historical Records of Australian Science
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Taylor & Francis
Ohio University Press
University of Georgia Press
Éditions du Seuil
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Cambridge University Press
Disease ecology
Medical geography; Etiology
Disease and diseases
Historians of science, modern
Infectious diseases
Grmek, Mirko Drazen
Pavlovsky, Evgeny N.
Elton, Charles Sutherland
Burnet, Frank Macfarlane
Smith, Theobald
Dubos, René Jules
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
21st century
20th century, early
United States
Australia; New Zealand
Georgia (U.S.)
University of Georgia
Royal Society of London
Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research

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